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Six “Street Smart” Urban Survival Skills



Business people at rush hour walking in the street | Six "Street Smart" Urban Survival Skills | Featured

Develop your urban survival skills by knowing how to adapt to this type of environment!

RELATED: 37 Urban Survival Skills To Master Before SHTF

In this article:

  1. Urban Disaster Survival
    1. Trust Your Instincts and Stay Alert
    2. Evaluate the Risks
    3. Evaluate Your Home Security and Create a Safe Zone
    4. Situational Awareness
    5. Know Your Neighborhood
    6. Everyday Carry Items
  2. What to Do If You Feel Threatened

Urban Survival Skills for the Street Savvy

Urban Disaster Survival

The term “Urban Survival” is bantered around a lot these days and can mean different things depending on the context in which it is written.

To George at UrbanSurvival.com, it represents surviving the replay of the Great Depression of 1929 in current times. And in a sense, that is the foundation upon which Backdoor Survival was initially built.

For today's article, I am going to use the term in a slightly different context, with basic urban survival skills and how you can survive in an urban environment by becoming proficient at street smarts. Or, put even another way, tips for the development of a street smart attitude in a survival situation.

First, let us start out with a definition of “street smart.” The Urban Dictionary describes street smart as the prevailing trait of “someone who is intelligent, has good common sense, knows how to handle bad situations, and has the skills necessary to function where they live.”

To me, “Street Smart” is the ability to recognize what is going on in the world and the place that you live in. That plus having the physical and mental tools to adapt and survive within that world and that place.

That is my definition and I like it. So imagine this:

There is chaos around you (due to a natural disaster, civil unrest, massive unemployment, whatever) and even though you stay close to home, you must venture out to go to your job, take your kids to school, and to periodically make a trip to the grocery store.

And yet the moment you step outside you can feel the tension. What do you do?

1. Trust Your Instincts and Stay Alert

Do you know those gut feelings of yours? Now is the time to pay attention. If something around you seems “off,” walk away and retreat to safety.

Don't be embarrassed or ashamed to admit that you are frightened even if you feel foolish after the fact. Bad vibes are bad vibes so trust yourself and you will be fine.

2. Evaluate the Risks

Headed to an unfamiliar area? Evaluate the risks so that you are prepared.

Dress to blend in. Don't carry a lot of obviously expensive electronics and don't call excessive attention to yourself.

If the area is under siege, evaluate your need to even go there. Is it worth the risk?

3. Evaluate Your Home Security and Create a Safe Zone

Make sure the outdoor area of your home is well lit and that the foliage and shrubbery are trimmed around the perimeter of your home site. The last thing you want is a convenient hiding place for the bad guys right there on your property.

RELATED: How To Build An Urban Survival Kit

4. Situational Awareness

Teach yourself to actively look for signs of threats and dangers. Crime can be anywhere but tends to be more prevalent in dark, quiet areas such as parking garages, alleys, stairs, and lonely roadways.

As you enter these areas, look around for things that don't seem quite right. Trust your gut!

5. Know Your Neighborhood

Reach out and get to know your neighbors and members of your community. I have said this before and will say it again: talk among yourselves and come up with a plan to work together and to look after each other during a crisis or disaster.

6. Everyday Carry Items


Increase your ability to defend yourself and get attention. This can be as simple as carrying a whistle, some pepper spray, and a small flashlight.

Or, depending on your situation, this could include a knife or firearm.

What to Do If You Feel Threatened

Attitude is everything and can make a huge difference.

Do not give off signals that you feel vulnerable and threatened. Nope don't do that.

On the other hand, do not purposely walk into a dangerous situation. Instead, withdraw as quietly and unobtrusively as you can and retreat to an area where there are more people around.

Worse case, run away while making a loud noise (remember that whistle?).

Check out these urban survival tips by Canadian Prepper:

Having street smarts takes common sense and the ability to deal with all kinds of people in a myriad of contentious situations. While having well-honed street smarts is essential for urban dwellers, street smarts are also an important skill for those in a rural community or remote area.

There is no better time than now to practice a street smart and street-savvy attitude. Above all, be safe.

Got more urban survival skills tips to add? Tell us about them in the comments section below!


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 28, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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  1. Matt Stevens

    July 28, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    Very useful info!! I’m very concern about protecting my home and I read somewhere about using caltrops, those metal devices with four points.You can spread them outside your house. Do you think they are a good ideea?

    • Dan Redding

      November 28, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      The problem I see with caltrops, or any other area denial weapon is that they are indiscriminate. I understand the appeal, but it would make me feel terrible to have some random kid run into my yard after a ball (or whatever innocent situation that arises) and step on one.

      Just my two cents.

  2. Oathkeeper

    July 28, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    An added layer of perimeter security I found for free is prickly pear cactus. I live in Texas and you can find these anywhere. Just pick one up and drop it by the base of your fence. Do this every 6 feet and on 2-3 years you will have a very affective barrier. It also is good food source. Pick the new growth and it can be eaten, great with scrabbled eggs and hot sauce! During spring you can eat the fruit. Just be careful with the spines.

  3. TPSnodgrass

    July 28, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Yet another good solid article by Mr. Graff.(don’t know him and I’m not related to him either) People need to understand and fully embrace the basics he has outlined in his article. Far too many people are either “legends in their own minds” or willfully oblivious. Again, Mr. Graff has simply shown how basic good street smarts are to be used. There is nothing wrong with situational conflict avoidance at all.
    I am enjoying his writing, primarily because it appears he and I are sympatico in theory and it appears in practice, as well as our respective personal/professional lives. While I’ve not lived not worked in Arizona, nor am I a bail agent, I did spend a few decades and a bit in law enforcement in SoCal, so, I truly appreciate Graff’s telling it plainly and simply. We need more like him on this blog. Thanks.

  4. Zyxomma

    July 28, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    I live in a formerly rough (now gentrified) neighborhood, and all of this is sound advice. Of course, it’s good to know how to defend oneself, and I studied internal Chinese martial arts for years. The only time anyone has messed with me is while out of his mind on crack — and I left him writhing in the gutter. Apparently, he’d been following me for blocks and was screaming when he caught up. He threw a punch right at my face, and connected with hair, because I was gone (moved quickly out of the way). Meanwhile, he’d left his legs wide open, and I brought my boot right down on his kneecap; heard the patella break like an eggshell. He figured I was easy prey. Instead of waking up in Bellevue Emergency, I sent him there. If I have to head to a sketchy neighborhood (I do so very, very rarely), I carry my beautiful credit card knife (thanks, Survivallife!) open, with the blade in my business card holder, and the cardholder in the outside pocket of my bag. I’m glad to report I’ve never had to use it (apart from cutting a cucumber at a Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors concert), but I’m very glad it’s there! Health and peace.

  5. Rik Krogh

    July 28, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    Regarding the comment on trusting your instincts everyone should read the book BLINK by Malcomb Gladwell. It is all about how your brain reacts before you even realize. It has already evaluated a situation with variables that you have had prior experience with and as you ponder, you believe that your instincts are signaling you. It is your brain and it has already decided. Get the book it is not long and is full of useful information regarding decision making and instincts.

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  8. Bohappenstance Click

    December 16, 2016 at 12:32 AM

    “Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to admit that you are frightened even if you feel foolish after the fact.”
    This is great advice. All of us “he-men” (I’ve retired from he-manism) are stubborn, over confident block heads when it comes to fear, so much so that we refuse the feeling all together. G-d gave us fear for a reason. Don’t be a victim of natural selection, you bad ass you.

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